Pro-sleaze forces hold their groundIf you’re an Itaewon purist, you’ve been watching and worrying over the past few years as the classy places invade and threaten to squeeze out the sleazy ones.
This battle is mostly being fought around the Hamilton Hotel, where snooty restaurants such as Le Saint Ex, La Tavola and La Cigale have cropped up.
And last month, you may have noticed, another new place with a pretentious name appeared, a few steps down from La Tavola, east of the Hamilton: On y va. Look at its big sign, which also says “Wine Bar,” and you’ll assume that the forces of sleaze have again lost precious ground.
But fear not. Though the new place smacks of swank and wants to be a wine bar, it’s actually a hostess bar, and is completely sommelier-free.
In other words, it’s vintage Itaewon.
Take the name. Sure, “On y va” sounds French, but it works better in Korean. In French it means “One goes there,” while in Korean it means “Hey big sister, check me out.”
Walk into On y va, and you’ll think “classy.” You’ll be wowed by the modern, elegant interior ― the high ceilings with dazzling floor-to-ceiling curtains, the cool onyx-marble counter, the chaise lounges from Thailand, the Italian leather sofas. You might think you’re in the toniest joint in New York.
But then you’ll stop and remember the poster you saw in the stairwell just outside ― “Slutty Nurses Party,” it said, heralding the theme for On y va’s grand opening soiree this Thursday.
To beat everyone to the punch, the phony oenophiles at Itaewon Wanderings popped into On y va the other night to survey its booze-swilling prospects.
Soon enough we’d sat at the bar and met the owner, Kang Mi-ok, who is lovely and charming but admittedly no wine expert. We asked for the sommelier. Ms. Kang said there wasn’t one.
So this place might be fun after all, we surmised.
Ms. Kang provided a wine menu. We asked for a recommendation.
She suggested a 2000 Australian Bin 28 Shiraz, at 100,000 won ($85), or a 1999 Classico Chianti, at 90,000 won.
We chose the Chianti, because earlier that day we’d seen the movie “Gladiator” on cable TV and saw the ancient Romans guzzling it.
We guzzled as the Romans did, as soon as our bottle came and was corked. So while we’d like to report on the Chianti’s flavor and fragrance, we can’t, because it spent minimal time traveling from glass to stomach. Oh, wait ― it afforded a most satisfying afterbuzz.
A little later, Ms. Kang told us that she wants to make On y va a proper wine bar, but that she’d have to hire a sommelier, and the plan would take a year or two to realize.
We told her to take her time on the sommelier ― and to keep fighting the good, lowbrow fight.
by Mike Ferrin